Here is a quick list of my top 10 reads this last year in no particular order. These were the books that made me want to sit on my couch, turn off the phone, and ignore my to-do list.
1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Betty Smith
This book really surprised me because though the setting is Brooklyn in the early 1900's right before World War 1, the writing and the approach to the topics seem surprisingly contemporary. Betty Smith's fairly autobiographical look at poverty and hope in a Brooklyn neighborhood is frank in its approach to love, sex, relationships, and issues of class. Though told in third person, this novel's main focus is Francie Nolan, who loves the library and school and sees education as a way out of her circumstances.
2. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer: Lish McBride
I had high hopes for this book based on the title (and the Sherman Alexie shout out on the cover) and I wasn't disapointed. This was a fun, funny, and addictive beginning to a series set in Seattle (but a Seattle teaming with supernatural folks).
3. One Day: David Nicholls
This novel plays out in some ways you might guess and in other ways you might not, but perhaps because I'm about the same age as Dex and Em, the main characters, this story evoked a lot of nostalgia, some out-and-out belly laughs, and a few tears.
4. I Capture the Castle: Dodie Smith
I can't tell you exactly why I found this book so charming and compellingly readable but I did. Though it was written in 1948 (and it's definitely set between the wars), the voice of the main character, Cassandra, is shockingly contemporary. Though the novel is filled with a vast array of eccentric characters including the castle that Cassandra and her family live in, it's the character of Cassandra and her mix of savvy and innocence that really kept me reading.
5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie's wonderful novel is just one more example of young adult fiction kicking the a** out of most adult fiction these days. This is the story of Junior, who decides to leave the Rez and his only friend, Rowdy, to attend an all white school 22 miles away.
6. The Shadow Catcher: Mariane Wiggins
Woven in and out of two narratives (one present/one past) are Wiggin's reflections on the call of wanderlust, of wide open American spaces, of the power and limitations of photography, and the effects of absent fathers.
7. The Kind One: Tom Epperson
I picked this novel up from a bargain table at Border's because the author, Tom Epperson, had co-written the script for One False Move, a movie that still haunts me to this day. According to the back of the book, this novel is "soon to be a major motion picture" but it's already quite cinematic . . . in a good way, not in a film script-y kind of way (where you hear the plot creaking)
8. Boneshaker: Cherie Priest
In this steampunk novel (my first), there are zombies (or rotters), airships, and lots of fascinating weapons as well as a mother and son who are both brave but flawed.
9. Garnethill: Denise Mina
A gritty Scottish thriller that was hard to put down. After a night of drinking, Maureen O'Donnell stumbles home to her apartment in a tough neighborhood in Glasgow, passes out, and wakes up to find her boyfriend Douglas tied to a chair in the living room with his throat slashed. Things just go downhill from there.
10. She Got Off the Couch: Haven Kimmel
More tales from Mooreland, Indiana . . . population 320 (or so).